Home to some 4.5 million people, Berlin is the capital city of the Federal Republic of Germany. The city is the largest in Germany and is also the seat of the state of Berlin, one of Germany's 16 states. Berlin is a diverse city that is often regarded as one of the youngest in Europe because so many artists, pacifists, and musicians from younger generations have moved to the city throughout the decades following the end of World War II. Today, the city is well known for its tolerance, lively nightlife, street art, and countless museums.
When to visit
Late spring through early autumn offers the best time of year to visit Berlin. There are two major events that take place during this window, 48 Stunden Neukolln and the Bierfestival Berlin (International Berlin Beer Festival). The former started in 1999 as a small block party in the working-class neighborhood of Neukolln.
Today, it is a two-day celebration in June that highlights the creativity of the neighborhood's residents. The latter occurs one weekend each year in August, and offers you the chance to sample 2,000 types of beer from around the world, including craft brews from independent German breweries.
On the whole, Berlin's weather is often gray and cold. Fear not, there is a large window of time when the weather is warm and inviting. The best time to visit Berlin occurs between May and early September. If you visit in the few weeks encompassing late July and early August, be prepared for extreme heat. You'll find plentiful sunlight during the summer months as well, with daylight lingering past 9 PM every day.
Autumn is a suitable time of year to visit Berlin. Though the temperature is often crisp, there are plenty of clear-blue days to enjoy as well. Winter is seemingly endless in Berlin, with sleet, icy rain, strong winds, and freezing temperatures the norm. However, winter offers a number of classic indoor cultural events for you to enjoy.
Your trip to Berlin isn't complete without a visit in early October. This is the only time of year to catch the Festival of Lights. Famous buildings throughout the city, such as the Brandenburg Gate, are illuminated in numerous ways. Best of all, the event is free to enjoy. Other must-do festivals and activities in Berlin include the Berlinale (Berlin Film Festival) and a shopping outing to Ku'Damm.
The Berlin Film Festival is the city's largest cultural event each year, with 250,000 tickets sold annually and 400 different films screened. Ku'Damm, and its extension Tauentzienstrabe, is the primary shopping region in Berlin. Flagship stores for major international brands can be found here, including KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens), which is the largest department store in continental Europe. Most Berlin shops close at 8 PM from Sunday to Wednesday, with closing hours varying from 9 PM to 10 PM Thursday to Saturday. Sunday opening is determined by German law, and is limited to roughly a dozen weekends each year, often in conjunction with major events.
Berlin is a city rich in historical significance. The former Reichstag under Nazi control, the Bundestag is the German parliament building and offers free tours to visitors if you register in advance. Registering is important because there is a daily limit on tours, so book early if you want to see the building's interior.
The Berlin Wall famously divided not just the city, but the free world from the Communist rule of the Soviet Union. Today, a large stretch of the wall remains intact for you to visit east of Central Berlin along the River Spree. Don't forget to visit Checkpoint Charlie. Famous as an American-controlled crossing point between East and West, the actual guardhouse is housed at the Allied Museum on Clayallee.
Tips & Recommendations
• Cash is king in Berlin. Locals prefer cash over credit cards. The local currency is the Euro (€). Traveler checks are not widely accepted.
• Bars are popular gathering points for Berlin's younger generations.
• 112 is a nationwide emergency number for medical emergencies and fires.
• 110 is the police emergency number.
• Pickpockets are a problem in some Berlin neighborhoods, so be weary at bus stops and large train stations.
• Exercise caution at night in the districts of Neukolln, Kreuzberg, and Wedding. Intoxicated partiers and low-income neighborhoods create a volatile situation at times after dark.
If you prefer a small, intimate accommodations, mittendrin - Boutique Hotel Berlin is a good choice. Book a comfy 3-star room here. The lodging provides an excellent location from which to walk and view several attractions, including Bauhaus Museum of Design and Berlin Zoo. Siegessäule can be found in the area nearby.
Stars Guesthouse Berlin is a small, intimate lodge in Berlin. A good option for those who seek a greater degree of comfort in Berlin. Several popular attractions are easy to reach from this location, including Bauhaus Museum of Design and Berlin Zoo.